Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian expressed alarm over the two incidents of food poisoning that affected students in the Caraga Region in Mindanao and in Cubao, Quezon City in a span of a week even as he said that local government units (LGUs) should intensify inspection of food factories and eateries especially those near schools.
“The fact that school children are the most vulnerable to food poisoning inside school premises points to the need for LGUs to strictly enforce the sanitation permit for food factories, restaurants, and small eateries,” said Gatchalian, a majority member in the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture and on Higher and Technical Education.
Republic Act No. 7160 devolved certain functions of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to LGUs that included the enforcement of laws and cleanliness and sanitation, and preparation of their respective solid waste management programs.
R.A. 7160 also provides for the appointment of a health officer which shall be mandatory for provincial, city and municipal governments. The health officer shall direct the sanitary inspection of all business establishments selling food items or providing accommodations such as hotels, motels, lodging houses, pension houses, and the like, in accordance with the Sanitation Code.
The most recent case of food poisoning happened Thursday at the Juan Sumulong High School in Cubao, Quezon City, in which 10 students were rushed to the hospital after eating homemade macapuno candies sold by an outsider.
Eight of the Grade 7 students who ate the candies complained of stomach pains and started vomiting. They were immediately taken to the nearby Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC).
Two more students were brought to the hospital on Friday and Saturday, respectively, some of them ending up at the intensive care unit. Fortunately, their condition improved and by Sunday afternoon, the 10 students— all belonging to the same class—had been discharged.
Last July 10, close to 2,000 victims — mostly school children in Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Agusan del Sur — were rushed to different hospitals after eating durian candies that were produced by Wendy’s Delicious Durian based in Davao City.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier said the product was found to have been tainted with staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin, hair, nose, and throat of the people and animals.
Gatchalian said it is bad enough that nearly 20 percent of Filipino children on the average are undernourished. “But it’s even worse that school children in public schools fall prey to food poisoning due to irresponsible food manufacturers.”
The Valenzuela City congressman earlier filed House Bill No. 5348, also known as the “Nutri-Skwela Act of 2015” that aims to address problem of malnutrition among 20 percent of Filipino children by giving them access to nutritious meals while studying in school.
Gatchalian’s bill seeks to establish the Philippine Basic Education Nutrition and Performance Acceleration Program to ensure that children enrolled in daycare pupils, kindergarten, and Grades 1 to 6 in all public educational institutions nationwide will be able to access at least one free meal on each school day of the academic year.
“Empty stomachs distract school children from learning their lessons well. Schooling develops children’s potentials so they will be able to contribute their best in nation-building, but how can they absorb their lessons if all they can hear are their rumbling stomachs?” Gatchalian said.
Under HB 5348, children whose daily academic program lasts for more than five hours will be eligible to receive two free meals. City and municipal nutrition committees will be responsible for the purchase of food and for the logistical and organizational concerns of the program.
The bill also seeks to expand the functions of a central body to be known as the National Nutrition Council, which is responsible for the overall formation, implementation, and evaluation of the program. (R. Burgos)